Film Review: Melodrama Weakens Gwyneth Paltrow in ‘Country Strong’

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CHICAGO – Modern country music is actually quite fascinating. Whereas in the classic days of the 1950s to ‘70s, when it was a cult stepchild of popular music, now it occupies the rarified heights of the Justins and Taylors. That is why “Country Strong,” starring Gwyneth Paltrow, is so annoying. It doesn’t even try to be modern. Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

What is wrong with an exploration of modern marketing, pop music co-opting and celebrity worship that accompanies the post millennial pickers of C&W? Why the silly retread of what is essentially an “All About Eve” story – big country star out of rehab trying to resuscitate her career while young ingenue steps in? With its old fashioned melodrama, it fails to connect.

Kelly Canter (Paltrow) is the country mega-star in rehab, after losing a pregnancy when she fell on stage (and her blood alcohol was 1.9…a TMI harshness that didn’t need mentioning). Her “sponsor” in the clinic is Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), an up-and-coming country boy who plays Nashville honky-tonks straight out of a tourist brochure. Canter’s husband is James (Tim McGraw), who maintains the ambition of his wife’s popularity, even taking her out of the clinic before her stint is over.

Meanwhile, in a wild coincidence, Beau is playing the same club as Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), an ex-beauty queen taking a stab at the country game. She has tremendous stage fright, and freezes because she knows that James Canter is in the audience, looking for an opening act for Kelly’s comeback tour. Beau helps her out and they kill, so James suggests they become a duet and join the show. The tour rolls on.

It is revealed that Kelly and Beau were lovers. It is revealed that James has a thing for Chiles. It is revealed that Chiles reveals herself (in a bra and panty set straight from Junior Miss) to Beau. Will these triangles begin to straighten themselves, so Kelly can stay sober and on tour? Have you ever listened to a country song?

“Country Strong” opens everywhere January 7th. Featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester. Written and by directed by Shana Feste. Rated “PG-13”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Country Strong”

Kelly in the Pickler: Gwyneth Paltrow (Kelly) and Tim McGraw (James) in ‘Country Strong’
Kelly in the Pickler: Gwyneth Paltrow (Kelly) and Tim McGraw (James) in ‘Country Strong’
Photo Credit: Scott Garfield for © Screen Gems

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Country Strong”

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